Jan/Feb 2011

Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011

 Fishing Top End of Vancouver Island

by Larry E. Stefanyk

I have had the opportunity to fish for trout around much of Vancouver Island over the last 20 years, but never north of Campbell River. So in September I loaded my camper and headed north with fishing buddy Rob, pulling my 16-foot Lund Aluminum boat. Our camper is always filled to the brim with food as my wife Janice believes you can never have too much food. But because this was the last trip of the season she had cleaned out the freezer and only left enough food for our five-day trip plus a little extra of course.

We headed out on a beautiful fall day with our maps in hand and fly rods ready to fool some trout.
Our first stop was at Alice Lake turning off on Highway 19 towards Port Alice and then on to Link River Recreational Park. We set up camp and launched the boat on a great cement boat launch. Before dinner we headed out for a trout or two. After hooking and releasing a number of trout we headed into camp for our first wee drop of sustenance and dinner. Next day we fished in the morning and then decided to try Victoria Lake. We headed to Spruce Bay Recreation site, a nice little recreation location with five sites. But we were a little disappointed there was no place to launch the boat. We had to launch over the gravel shoreline, which is no problem for those who have a canoe or car topper, but not quite so good for those with a trailered boat. We spent the night and then headed out in the rain to find another boat launch area. We found Victoria Lake Recreation site but it was not suitable to launch a boat. 

With the rain coming a little harder we decided to try Georgie Lake off the Holberg Road, an area where I knew the lake and its facilities. It has a rough boat launch and there is talk of some pretty big cutthroat and Dolly Varden. With a quick stop in Port Alice for fuel and lunch we headed off to our new destination. Georgie Lake is about 30-minutes off Highway 19 heading towards Holberg. We arrived around 2 p.m. and set up camp. Shortly after we arrived at the lake another truck and trailer pulled into the previously empty site. They chose a site a little higher up from the lake than ours. We launched the boat in the rain deciding to give the lake a try.

My boat is outfitted for flyfishing and has a very high canopy so we were able to comfortably stay out of the rain for most of the time. We were having some problems trying to find the right fly, however and we kept trying different patterns until we found the magic one. Then we started hitting fish. Later, after eight nice fish caught and released, Rob landed a real nice three-pound cutthroat.
At that fine point we decided to call it a day and headed back to the camper for dinner and a wee drop before retiring. It continued to rain all night but we still got up early and fished. Heavy rainfall is not uncommon in the north end of Vancouver Island but we realized pretty quickly this downpour was extreme. We returned to camp to take the chill off and then went out again. I noticed that, during the morning fish, runoff from the shoreline was gently moving into the lake. But in the afternoon the rain’s flow had increased and there was a white froth on the lake as the runoff increased. I decided to run the bilge pump a little more regularly because the rain was getting even heavier. We called in a day at about 4 p.m.
We pulled the boat up onto the shoreline and tied a rope from the bow to a tree and returned to the camper. The rain was really coming down heavy and at 7 p.m. I took a walk down to check on the boat and it was lucky I did. The boat was now parallel to the shoreline and the water was rising fast. I straightened it out and turned on the bilge pump, it ran for a good five minutes, the water coming out in a steady stream as if I’d turned on the garden hose. Rob and I agreed we should pull the boat. We secured the inside of the camper, lifted the jacks and backed down the ramp. By this time the boat launch was completely under water but we managed to load the boat and pull it onto higher ground.
We re-leveled the camper and went to bed. The rain was so intense it sounded like someone was dropping buckets of golf balls on the roof. The noise was so deafening we couldn’t even talk.
 The next morning it was still raining although not as hard and we decided we should bring this trip to an end. Everything we owned was damp or wet and it was time to go home. Before we left I walked down to the lake and saw that the lake had come up eight to 10–feet. One of the big wooden picnic tables was actually afloat.
We were happy that we had made the decision to leave. We had about six km to make it to the Holberg Road. As we passed over a bridge that had had a passive bit of water flow to it two days ago, we were greeted with a very turbulent full-running creek. We turned on to the Holberg Road and it looked pretty good to start.

 Then as we rounded a corner there was water running across the road. I decided to stop the truck, walk over to the wash out and check it out. I cleared some of the larger and sharper rocks and we proceeded. Once on the other side we were only about four km to the pavement and another three km to Highway 19. It appeared to be a good gravel road ahead and then we turned the next bend and it was gone. The entire road was gone! I mean really gone.
It was a washout 40-feet plus across and 25-feet deep. I stopped the truck about 200 feet from the washout and Rob and I walked down to take a look. The washout came from a stream that ran thought a culvert; it looked like too much water had backed up and pushed the culvert and all the earth down into the creek.
Well now what are we going to do? Rob grabbed his Blackberry and called 911. Luckily we had cell service. We told the police detachment our predicament and they told us to sit tight.
Realizing that we weren’t going any place anytime soon we decided to set up camp. We found a flat spot on the road and leveled the camper. Later we walked back up the road and put out some markers to indicate there was a problem ahead. Unbeknownst to us at the time there was another wash out 22 km behind us and a total of 11 washouts from the Highway 19 to Holberg. An hour later the truck and trailer from Georgie Lake showed up and set up camp along side us.

Later when the RCMP came to the other side of the washout, they told us it was going to be anywhere from five to seven days before the road could be fixed. We asked if they could contact our families to let them know we were okay and were assured this would be done.
Now what?
Well we headed back to the camper to do an inventory of our food supply. Luckily Janice had done her planning well. We had lots of food. We might have to be short of fresh produce for a few day but we had lots of canned goods and staples.  Our new neighbors Joe and Arlene also took an inventory of their supplies and realized they needed propane for cooking and heat and gas for their generator; this was just their second trip out with their new trailer. Joe decided he would try to cross the washout where there was a log across the flowing water and he felt confident that he could make it. We tied a rope to Joe and over the bank he went to make the crossing. Suddenly the rope went slack and we started yelling for him, we were relieved when we saw him scramble over the log and up the other side. We tossed a rope over the gap and Joe tied it to a pole. We then secured the other end to a tree and then tossed a second rope across which we attached to the first rope so we could use it as a pulley. Joe came back to our side, loaded his backpack with a gas can and carried his propane bottle to the other side. About that time a crew showed up to look at the washout and one of them offered to drive Joe into town for his supplies. He brought us back some milk, butter and bread.

We arrived at the wash out around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and on Sunday around noon the first machine showed up to start our rescue. There was nothing to do, so we all took lawn chairs down to the “hole” to watch the progress, a routine we would follow for days. On the third day Rob and I decided to go back to Georgie Lake to fish. The road was good except for the small washout back about one km where the water was still running across the road. Back at the lake we decided to take the camper off the truck for ease of launching the boat. The water was still very high. I was in the boat, Rob was backing up the truck when the water was hitting the middle of the rear axel and we still had another 15- feet to go to get the boat off the trailer.
Things were not going well and we abandoned the launch attempt. Determined to get back out fishing we went looking for a place to launch my Port-A-Boat. There was no shoreline and the water was well into the trees, the lake was still up at least 10-feet. Disappointed we broke camp and headed back out to join Joe and Arlene once again. All along we had been eating well and had sufficient drinking water; we were a little damp but doing pretty well. On Tuesday I started collecting rainwater off the awning because we were running short of water for washing. On Wednesday the rain disappeared and the sun came out and we finally had a chance to try to dry a few things out. About 4:30 we were told there was a chance we could be leaving as the crew had been working on a 4x4 road beside the big wash out.
At 5:17 it was time to give it a try. With the truck in 4x4, Rob and I gingerly headed down the “new” narrow gravel road and a few tense moments later we were safely on the other side. This was quite the experience, not something I would wish on anybody. Thankfully we were well prepared with a full tank of gas, full propane tanks, first aid kit, an axe, shovel and safety supplies. And a well-stocked camper.
This was a good lesson in being prepared for the unexpected.

Jan/Feb 2011
Jan/Feb 2011
Huxley’s Run: 

I first held it in my hand several years ago. It is an original 3/6 Tyee rod that was custom built for Van Egan author of Tyee: The Story of the Tyee Club of British Columbia. The split cane design met all the specs, not more than six feet long and weighing no more than six ounces. The line could be no stronger than six three-strands of gut - or about 18-pound test. I believe there had been a special category for 3/6 rods in the annual Tyee Club of British Columbia tournament but it has disappeared along with the rods and those brave enough to use them.
It was in immaculate condition and had two Tyee Club ‘approved’ stickers attached.
“Go ahead and fish it,” Van told me.
Feeling its delicate length I declined, worrying that it might break. I suggested it should be saved as an antique.
“I didn’t pay to have it custom built just so it could hang on some damn wall,” he said and back in the metal tube it went.
Curiosity got the best of me a few years later and I did fish it on Van’s urging, allowing a select few to hold it while I rowed the Tyee boat. To a person, they expressed deep fear about breaking a piece of Campbell River history. But, alas, those few select fishings went fishless and ended with collective exhalations that the rod hadn’t been tested.
Van passed away July 8, 2010, a week before the annual tournament was to begin. We had been talking about the upcoming season for a month previous and during some of those conversations he said how neat it would be if the 3/6 rod caught a fish.
On a Friday night after last light and the fishing ended fellow rower Mike Mackie came by the dock as I tied up. “Want to do that tide tomorrow?” he asked. “I’ll row, you hold the rod.”
‘The rod’ he was referring to was the 3/6, which I had showed him earlier. So Saturday afternoon we headed out, me holding Van’s 3/6 rod and attached to the line my lucky “Love, Love, Love” spoon that my daughter had ‘decorated’ a few years ago. When Mike saw that spoon he muttered, “That’s an ugly looking spoon.”
Prior to going out another rower, Chris Cook, was preparing to row two guests and he stopped to ask if I thought the tide was going to be weedy. “Don’t think so,” I said confidently. “Should be pretty clean.”
It turned out to be thick, incredibly thick. But whether it was Mike’s rowing or the magical rod, we only picked weed off the weight four times and not once off the spoon in the first half hour.
The rhythmic cadence of the rod tip intensified. Mike had rowed over the sweetest of water. I took a peek at the landmarks (a Tyee rower’s GPS) and realized we were bang on the south corner just off the mouth of the Campbell River, the fishiest part of the famous Tyee Pool. I murmured something to Mike, my full attention on the ‘thump, thump, thump’ of the rod tip and Mike murmured something back. Then we were stuck in that awfully exquisite silence of anticipation.
“There it is!” yelled Mike as I struck the rod back sharply. And then the 3/6 was bent over and the salmon was in the air. It jumped seven or eight times and although it weighed only 22 pounds, it was bright and silver, and fought like a Tyee until it finally came to the net.
We were both elated and as we headed for the dock we smiled at each other, knowing we had been part of something special. We turned the corner at the Spit, heading towards the docks and Mike looked down beside him in the boat.
“Nice spoon,” he said. I felt good about that.
“And what a beautiful little rod,” he added.
Van would feel good about that too.

The base of the 3/6 rod against my pinky finger shows its delicacy and now you know why this is called the ‘Love, Love, Love’ spoon.


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